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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Zhongguo and Tianxia: the central state and the Chinese world

China is playing an ever-increasing role on the world stage of international relations, and it is starting to bring its own vocabulary to the part. The terminology that comprises the core lexicon of international relations theory originates from Greek and Latin, and it was developed to describe and interpret the configurations of power that have been common in Western history. Chinese scholars are now actively mining the Chinese historical experience to develop new terms to apply both to their own past and to an ever-changing present.

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George Washington and eighteenth century masculinity

We want George Washington—the President of all Presidents, the Man of all Men—to be a certain way. We want him to be an unalloyed male outdoing, singlehandedly, all the other competitors. We want him strong and rude, rough and rugged, athletic and hypersexualized, a chiseled torso, a Teddy Roosevelt, a Tarzan, and a John Wayne: “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

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Not finding Bigfoot

The Renaissance is remembered as a time of renewed interest in scientific investigation, yet it also brought a huge increase in sightings of fantastic creatures such as mermaids and sea serpents. One explanation for this apparent paradox is that the revival of classical art and literature inspired explorers to look for the creatures of Greco-Roman mythology. Another reason was the expansion of trade. Cryptids, fantastic creatures that elude established terms of description, tend to arise on the boundary of two or more cultures.

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Divali in the White House?

When Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to celebrate Divali in the White House in 2009, he sent a message to South Asian Americans that they are a part of the American national narrative. His actions were not only about lighting lamps and the remembrance of Indic myths, but they were also about the […]

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Energy and contagion in Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life

Emile Durkheim was a foundational figure in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, yet recapitulations of his work sometimes overlook his most intriguing ideas, ideas which continue to have contemporary resonance. Here, I am going to discuss two such ideas from Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (originally published in 1912 and then in English in 1915), his concept of energy and contagion.

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On serendipity, metals, and networks

“What connects archaeology and statistical physics?”, we asked ourselves one evening in The Marquis Cornwallis, a local Bloomsbury pub in London back in 2014, while catching up after more than a decade since our paths crossed last time. While bringing back the memories of that time we first met when we were both 16, it hit us that our enthusiasm for research we did as teenagers had not faded away

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Louis Leakey’s quest to discover human origins

Louis Leakey remains one of the most recognized names in paleoanthropology and of twentieth century science. Leakey was a prolific writer, a popular lecturer, and a skillful organizer who did a great deal to bring the latest discoveries about human evolution to a broader public and whose legacy continues to shape research into the origins of mankind. Louis and Mary’s work garnered wide public attention for several reasons.

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Music and human evolution

After being closed to the public for the past six months, the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall reopened on the 13 July 2017, featuring a grand blue whale skeleton as its central display. This event carried particular importance for OUP’s Gabriel Jackson, who was commissioned to write a piece for the Gala opening ceremony.

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Enlightened nation: a look at the Choctaw education system

Peter Pitchlynn, or “The Snapping Turtle,” was a Choctaw chief and, in 1845, the appointed delegate to Washington DC from the Choctaw Nation. Pitchlynn worked diligently to improve the lives of the Choctaw people—a Native American people originally from the southeastern United States. He strongly believed in the importance of education, and served as the superintendent of the Choctaw Academy in 1840.

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Population will hit eight billion. Here’s why it scares people

Any day now, global population will hit 7.5 billion. Experts predict that we humans will reach eight billion in number sometime around the year 2024. Does that fact fill you with trepidation? Chances are that it does, even though it’s only a number, after all. “Eight billion” says nothing about innovations in agriculture or renewable energy technologies, and certainly nothing about global social justice.

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Why is home so important to us?

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” These well-known expressions indicate that home is somewhere that is both desirable and that exists in the mind’s eye as much as in a particular physical location. Across cultures and over the centuries people of varied means have made homes for themselves and those they care about.

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Understanding the populist backlash

Although populism is making headlines across the globe, there is a lot of confusion about what this concept really means and how we can study this phenomenon. Part of the problem lies in the usage of the term as a battle cry. Both academics and pundits often employ the term populism to denote all the political actors and behaviors they dislike.

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Evolution of the Cerebellar Sense of Self

Getting to know your cerebellar self

The cerebellum is an intriguing part of our brain. Its name is the diminutive form of cerebrum, so literally means ‘little brain’. It is true that, in humans, it occupies just 10% of the brain volume, yet recent research shows it accounts for approximately 80% of the nerve cells; a complex network of approximately 69 billion neurons! Why does the ‘little brain’ contain such a disproportionate number of neurons?

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Poverty: a reading list

Poverty can be defined by ‘the condition of having little or no wealth or few material possessions; indigence, destitution’ and is a growing area within development studies. In time for The Development Studies Association annual conference taking place in Oxford this year in September, we have put together this reading list of key books on poverty, including a variety of online and journal resources on topics ranging from poverty reduction and inequality, to economic development and policy.

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Matters of the past mattering today

The past can be very important for those living in the present. My research experiences as an archaeologist have made this very apparent to me. Echoes from the distant past can reverberate and affect the lives of contemporary communities, and interpretations of the past can have important ramifications.

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The challenge of adult language learning

Adult migrants often struggle to learn the language of their new country. In receiving societies, this is widely seen as evidence that migrants are lazy, lack the required will power or, worse, actively resist learning the new language as an act of defiance towards their new community. Unfortunately, most of those who point the finger at migrant language shirkers vastly underestimate the effort involved in language learning.

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